by Rochelle Davis, President and CEO
By now many who follow school food in Chicago have heard about the recent ethics investigation at Chicago Public Schools focused on the school nutrition department and the companies that provide food service to the district. Following this investigation, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has called for Louise Esaian, head of school nutrition for CPS, to be fired. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publicly supported this position, and the Board of Education is expected to make the official decision at its board meeting on March 28.
As we have worked closely with CPS and Ms. Esaian over the past few years to make significant changes to the food and fitness environment in Chicago schools, I want to let you know how we plan to move forward given this change.
HSC remains committed to working with CPS to make ongoing improvements to school food and physical activity across the district. In its search for a new director of school nutrition, we encourage the district to identify leaders who will be able to build on recent progress for healthy school food and continue to make important changes prioritizing student health. Moving forward, HSC will:
- Continue to work at the school level with CPS staff, principals and school stakeholders to challenge and support all CPS schools as they strive to meet the school food, nutrition education, physical activity and physical education requirements of the HealthierUS School Challenge.
- Continue to work with CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and other district leaders on district-wide initiatives including reinstating recess, improving PE, incorporating health into the new school improvement planning process, and supporting the integration of health and wellness into the longer school day.
- Continue to support improvements to the school meal program, building on advances made to date including the breakfast program, expanding the district’s local procurement program and continuing to advocate for food that is grown and raised in a healthful way.
We realize that some of our efforts may be impacted by this change in leadership, but we are committed to working with CPS on health-promoting initiatives for all students. I am confident that the broad set of relationships we have established throughout the district and the city will serve us well during this transition.
As we continue our efforts to improve the food and fitness environment in Chicago schools, I hope that the school, business and community leaders we work with in this effort will remain committed to supporting student health and wellness.